BlackBerry today announced a new product that allows automakers to manage and deliver Over-the-air (OTA) software updates to vehicles. The service, called Software Update Management for Automotive, will leverage BlackBerry’s existing infrastructure, used to push software updates to millions of BlackBerry devices around the world, to facilitate machine-to-machine (M2M) communication directly between the automaker and the vehicle.

Although the main use case appears to be software updates, the broader term also encompasses sending out new apps to customers and the ability to get the status of a vehicle’s systems. BlackBerry says its OTA service is capable of providing secure global distribution and is also highly scalable in that it can support “millions of vehicles.”

blackberry auto 730x278 BlackBerry unveils new OTA update and management service for automakers, scalable to millions of vehicles

The Canadian company plans to detail more about the technology at the Telematics Detroit conference later today. More details about the OTA solutions will be made available “in the coming months” – no specific timeline other than that was given.

“BlackBerry is helping facilitate a rapid convergence between mobile computing and the auto industry as automakers seek to connect with customers wherever they may be,” David J. Smith, Executive Vice President of Enterprise Mobile Computing at BlackBerry, said in a statement. “BlackBerry’s Software Update Management for Automotive service can transform the vehicle experience by enabling automakers to deliver new, compelling capabilities to their customers, long after the initial sale.”

The business case for OTA updates is rather obvious. As vehicles become more technologically advanced, their owners become more interested in wireless software updates: who doesn’t want their car to age more slowly?

Yet at first glance it might seem odd that BlackBerry is eager to help automakers take advantage of all the computing power that vehicles nowadays have. A closer look shows that this is more than just a way to get the company into another market that already supports smartphone connectivity.

Here’s the marketing jargon from BlackBerry itself:

The development of OTA services is part of BlackBerry’s broader mobile computing strategy. BlackBerry is providing the foundation for a new era of mobile computing by connecting mobile end points securely and creating opportunities for community building, connecting and sharing.

The fact is that BlackBerry’s QNX software is already used by most automakers (some estimates are as high as 60 percent), and is considered the gold standard in the industry. The current customer list includes Acura, Audi, BMW, Chrysler, Daewoo, GM, Hyundai, Land Rover Range Rover, Porsche, Saab, and Renault Samsung.

In other words, BlackBerry is trying to protect its investment by staying ahead of the curve. We’ll be watching this one closely.

Top Image Credit: Abdulaziz Almansour